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Gilmore '51 Awarded Legion of Honor

Overseer Marvin Gilmore '51 Awarded French Legion of Honor

NEC Overseer Marvin Gilmore Jr. ’51 Awarded French Legion of Honor Medal

First African American in New England to Be Recognized for Service on D-Day in Normandy, France

NEC Overseer Marvin Gilmore Jr. ’51 was awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal by Consul General of France Christophe Guilhou, May 20 at a ceremony in Gardner Auditorium in the Massachusetts State House.  Gilmore is the first African-American in New England to be so decorated for his service during the Normandy Invasion in 1944.  Gilmore, a Cambridge resident, served in the 458th, Battery ‘A’ Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion and served on D-Days at Normandy, Utah and Omaha Beaches.

The ceremony took place on the 75th Annual Massachusetts Lafayette Day during which African-Americans are honored on their contributions from the Revolutionary War to the present. Among special guests present were Count Gilbert de Pusy Lafayette, 6th generation grandson of General Lafayette, the French-born hero of the Revolutionary War, and Senator-Mayor Jean Pierre Leleux of Grasse, France.  Gilmore’s son David, along with singers Robert Honeysucker and Yuriko Nonako, performed music at the event. Speakers at the awards presentation included Guilhou, Cambridge Mayor David P. Maher, Professor Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard Law School, Ambassador Charles R. Stith, and Gilmore himself.  A contingent of NEC admirers was also on hand including (in photo below) President Tony Woodcock and Contemporary Improvisation Chair Hankus Netsky.

The Normandy invasion was the largest amphibious operation in history and set the stage for the liberation of France and Europe from the Nazis. Gilmore was also awarded several Good Conduct Medals, including the American Campaign Medal; European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal & Bronze Star Attachment; World War II Victory Medal; Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII; and Sharpshooter Badge & Rifle Bar. 

Since 1973, Gilmore has served as the President and CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Boston, Inc., a community-based, private, non-profit economic development organization. Prior to joining the CDC, Gilmore Jr. co-founded the first Black-owned and operated commercial bank in Boston, the Unity Bank and Trust Company in Roxbury. Gilmore is also owner of The Western Front nightclub in Cambridge. Gilmore, who studied percussion at NEC, has been an NEC Overseer since 1996, serving on the Facilities Committee and as a Mentor to student mentees.

For further information, check the NEC Website.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115